How to Submit a FOIA Request for Immigration Understanding the Freedom of Information Act


Submitting a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request can be an intimidating process, but it is an important tool for gaining access to government records. The FOIA is a federal law that provides individuals with the right to access information held by government agencies. This law applies to all federal agencies, including those involved in immigration, such as the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

What Information Can be Obtained Through a FOIA Request?

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Before submitting a FOIA request related to immigration, it is important to understand what information can be obtained through this process. The FOIA allows individuals to request records and documents, including emails, memos, and reports, that are created or received by government agencies. This can include information related to immigration applications, petitions, and enforcement actions.

However, it is important to note that FOIA requests cannot be used to access personal records or information about other individuals, such as medical records or employment histories. Additionally, FOIA requests cannot be used to request information that is exempt from disclosure under the law, such as classified information or information that would invade personal privacy.

Steps to Submit a FOIA Request for Immigration Information

To submit a FOIA request related to immigration, there are a few steps that should be followed:

Identify the agency that holds the records you are seeking

For immigration-related records, this may be USCIS, ICE, or another agency involved in immigration.

Determine the specific records or information you are seeking

It is important to be as specific as possible when making a FOIA request, as this can help ensure that the agency is able to locate and provide the information you are seeking.

Submit a written request

FOIA requests must be made in writing, either through a letter or an online form provided by the agency. The request should include your name and contact information, as well as a detailed description of the records you are seeking.

Wait for a response

The agency has 20 business days to respond to your request. If the agency needs more time to process your request, they may ask for an extension. If your request is denied, the agency must provide a reason for the denial and information about how to appeal the decision.

It is important to note that FOIA requests can take time to process, and it is not uncommon for agencies to take the full 20 business days or longer to provide a response. Additionally, there may be fees associated with obtaining the requested records, such as copying fees or search fees.

Other Resources for Immigration Information

In addition to submitting a FOIA request, there are other resources available for individuals seeking information about immigration in the United States. The USCIS website provides a wealth of information about immigration policies and procedures, including information about how to apply for immigration benefits and how to check the status of an application.

Additionally, organizations such as the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and the National Immigration Law Center (NILC) provide resources and support for individuals navigating the immigration system.


Overall, submitting a FOIA request can be a valuable tool for individuals seeking information about immigration in the United States. By understanding the process and limitations of the FOIA, individuals can gain access to important government records and better understand government policies and procedures related to immigration. It is important to be patient and prepared for a potentially lengthy and costly process, but the information obtained through a FOIA request can be invaluable for those seeking to navigate the complexities of the immigration system.

Do you know that Qazi Law can assist you in filing for FOIA? Call us at 630 504-0648 to learn more about this process. Don’t worry, calling our hotline for a case evaluation is absolutely free!

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